Manaki Brothers - International Cinematographers’ Film Festival

Inspiring film stories at “Manaki Brothers” from Africa to Bulgaria

September 27, Bitola – The films “Felicite” from the main competition, shot in Africa, and “The Beast is Still Alive” from the documentary program, raised some interesting discussions today with the festival guests about the challenges of shooting a film in Africa, as well as the communist past thrown under the rug in Bulgaria.

The film “Felicite” by the French director Alain Gomis, recipient of the Silver Bear award in Berlin, together with the cinematographer Celine Bozon gave an interesting showcase of Africa, or in the words of the cinematographer herself, crashed the clichés and showed us Africa in a cruel and truthful way.

-It is a film in which the documentary aspect and the showcase of Kinshasa is as significant as the story. Working on this film opened a new, magical world to me personally. In my career I have travelled to many countries, but Africa is something unimaginative and special – said Celine Bozon.

The biggest impact that the filming left on this French cinematographer was the interweave of the three main aspects of the film: the documentary one, the musical one and the night shooting in the African forests. The people in Africa are a story to themselves, however.

-The people in Kinshasa have a completely different approach towards the camera than the Europeans because it doesn’t happen that often that films are shot there. That is why we had an extraordinary chance to film spontaneous situations on the sets – explained Bozon.

The moment that she pointed out from all the others by which she will remember the shooting in Africa is the story of the encounter of the main actress with a wild African animal called okapi.

A guest at the festival is also Jesper Anderson, a representative of the Danish Film Institute, as Denmark is one of the countries in focus in this year’s program. Through the talk with the artistic director of the festival Gena Teodosievska, Anderson explained the challenges the filmmakers in Denmark face.

He said that most Danish directors choose to work abroad, especially in Britain, because of the larger filming budgets at offer, but, despite that, they make their best and most famous films right in their homeland of Denmark.

The interesting thing in Denmark is that large attention is being put on the production of children’s films. Hence, 25 percent of all film production funds go right to the children’s films, but, despite that, Jesper Anderson still thinks that Denmark had a far stronger production of children’s films in the 70s and 80s.

For the teenagers as a specific category, they have a special method of film education:

-The teenagers are a tough age group. They don’t want to watch children’s films nor youth films. The easiest way we approach them is by letting them create their own program that they want to see in the cinemas, without any interference or intervention from our side. Consequently, that youth group that puts the program together then invites friends and peers of theirs and we have somewhat of an audience of that age in the cinemas – explains Anderson.

Taking into terms the most frequent partners of Denmark in film co-production, the prime spots are taken by the other Scandinavian countries, but lately there have also been collaborations with the Balkan states, as Bulgaria and Croatia.

Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova are the director duo that stands behind the documentary “The Beast is Still Alive”, which caused a blast and flame of reactions in Bulgaria because of its theme’s specificity – the communist past of Bulgaria.

The two directors were present at the press conference after yesterday’s projection of their documentary and they explained in an interesting manner the road by which their films pierced from censorship to a phase of popularity in Bulgaria.

-A complex subject is at hands here. Almost all progressive people want to see themselves as socialists. I live in England for many years now and I often quarrel with the so-called “champagne socialists”, highly educated intellectuals, who we wonder with if the socialism is even possible and economically sustainable. Our base premise is to merge the stories of the people in Bulgaria of which no one knows together with the study of the Marxist ideas, and the forms of defeat of the ideas of socialism throughout the world. Also, an important subject in the film is the question of why aren’t the communism and socialism studied properly in Bulgaria – explained Mina Mileva.

On the other hand, Vesela Kazakova told us that, besides the film projections in cinemas, they also had a few projections at universities in Bulgaria, which have resulted in heated discussions with the young people who experienced the film very emotionally, especially the young leftists who didn’t know anything of the Bulgarian past.

The interesting thing about this film is that the censorship of the state actually helped them in their popularization. Their first film “Uncle Toni” was openly censored and wasn’t shown anywhere in Bulgaria, so they had simply concentrated on the foreign festivals and put the film on YouTube.

-About this film, the strategy of the establishment was the film to be simply ignored and by not getting the needed attention, the projections to become unsustainable. That was the case until the film was shown in prime-time on TV. That was followed by a flaming blast on social media, on Facebook and Twitter, where there was a real war going on. The Bulgarian Socialist party came out with a statement in which they required us to be censored and abolished… By doing that they actually did us a favor, because if there weren’t any reactions, there wouldn’t have been such a great impact made of the film. Since then, everyone in Bulgaria started attending the projections – explained Mina Mileva.

They detect the problem in the fact that Bulgaria hasn’t yet went through a process of lustration, so, according to them, a great percent of current officials in Bulgaria are staff of the KGB, and their personal contribution towards the enlightenment of the past is their true artistic vocation.

-The film pulled a lot of emotions and reactions with the viewers in Bulgaria. A lot of people started seeing us as activists, which was surprising to us to suddenly find ourselves in that role. But I think that with this film we found the true way in our work – concluded Vesela Kazakova.

In the regular time for hosting the Master Classes at the 38th “Manaki Brothers”, every day at 12 o’clock in the small hall of the Center for Culture, the festival guests, the audience and the students had a chance to attend the talk with the Austrian cinematographer Christian Berger, known as a close and permanent associate of the top director Michael Haneke. The Master Class was held in collaboration with First Films First.

Talking about his work with Haneke, with an emphasis on the film “The White Ribbon”, winner of an Oscar for a foreign language film, Berger said that it’s a great privilege to work with such a great director and that in working with him, a lot of concentration and large energy is needed.

Berger pointed out that the relationship of the actors towards the camera should be as in a love relationship, that he wants a clean scene so that there aren’t many obstacles for the actors to fulfill the requirements of the director and that his first lighting principle is based on the documentary approach, i.e. to be on the right spot at the right time. As a high expert in setting the lighting of the film set, he presented multiple lighting systems which he had used in various films he worked on so far.


Short films of students from Macedonia and the region were screened as part of the student program, which was followed by a discussion moderated by Gorgi Pulevski. There were some interesting topics opened up at the discussion, amongst which the relationship between the cinematographer and the young directors and their mutual influence in the work, as well as the awareness of the director and the whole team for the societal and ideological background of film stories.


On today’s film menu, there will be the film “Lady Macbeth” from the European Perspectives program, then the short film competition, the film “Mothers” by Milcho Manchevski and the Austrian film “Hidden Reserves”. From the main program, there will be the screening of the films “Jupiter’s Moon” about the young Syrian refugee Aryan who is trying to cross the Hungarian border, and the Korean film “On the Beach at Night Alone” about an actress who gives herself some personal space after an unsuccessful love affair.